The stench and smoke from the burning trash heap was overwhelming. Women and children were scavenging the stinking and steaming dump, with gigantic vultures standing by. The vultures were bigger than some of the children, and were just waiting to sweep down and grab some tasty morsel.

The trash heap is in the middle of the Kariobangi slum in Nairobi, Kenya. The drive through the ramshackle huts and shops, with litter everywhere, leads to the Kariobangi Youth Centre. Young people travel to the center five days a week to learn skills in carpentry and sewing, and are then helped to get jobs after their training.

Euticauls W. Nzengu, an ex-student of the center, now manages the work and also pastors the nearby Luckysummer Baptist Church.

The possibilities with the center are endless, but Euticauls needs the wood and tools to train more young people. He is enthusiastic about the work and dreams of helping countless other young people.

Then there is the Baptist Children’s Centre on the outskirts of Nairobi on a flat and dusty piece of land, also next to a slum area. Joseph Okullo is the director, a wonderful young man who, with his staff, looks after over 40 orphans. Joseph is severely handicapped himself, yet he tends to the children while on his crutches with great enthusiasm.

There is plenty of land here, and Joseph has plans to care for more children, once they can put up more buildings and find the support to provide the care. He wants children from the streets of Nairobi to receive a loving and caring Christian upbringing.

It would be easy to be depressed when confronted with stories of slum dwellers and street children. In fact, the worldwide statistics amplify the challenge as we seek to care for “the least of these”:

  • More than one-third of the world’s people live in areas already suffering from chronic water shortages.
  • Unclean water and poor sanitation kills more than 12 million people a year.
  • In 1999, the world population passed 6 billion people, and if current rates continue, world population will double by the end of the 21st century.
  • The population is growing faster than the food supply, and there are currently 800 million malnourished people in the world.
  • More than half of the world’s families are currently living in cities.

However, there are situations like these in Kenya, where local Baptists make a difference and work with those in need: the underprivileged, the poor and the outcasts. There, real saints challenge the statistics and alleviate some of the suffering they encounter each day.

To see what you can do to help with projects like these, visit the BWAid Web site.

Paul Montacute has been director of Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, since 1990.

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